The Lake Superior State University Cannabis Club’s journey from facing discrimination to achieving change on campus is a testament to the resilience and power of collective action in the face of adversity.
The sequence of events leading to their triumph unfolds like a David and Goliath tale, set in the halls of academia. This story isn’t just about a student club; it’s about a fight for equality and respect within the academic world, particularly in emerging fields of study like cannabis education; of which LSSU offers B.S. degrees in both Cannabis Business and Cannabis Chemistry.
The controversy began to unfold with the discriminatory actions and comments from the university’s administration, particularly targeted at the Cannabis Club. The Interim President of the University, Lynn Gillette, was at the forefront of this, making statements that not only undermined the club’s dignity but also blatantly violated the ethos of inclusivity and respect that a university is expected to uphold.
One of his remarks compared the club’s emotional quotient to that of roadkill, an analogy that was as shocking as it was disrespectful. The quote, “Cannabis Club has the EQ of a smushed squirrel after being run over by an 18-wheeler” was said by Gillette to the Student Government President, and former Cannabis Club President, Mackenzie Stockwell during their regularly scheduled meeting on November 2nd.
Another quote stated in the same meeting, was also notable from Gillette, where he told Stockwell, “The Student Government should keep a 10-foot pole from Cannabis Club, given the nature of the club.” This quote was said, even though the Student Government consists of nine Cannabis Club members, showing a disconnect between administration and student groups. Gillette acknowledged that both quotes were said in confidence via email between himself and Stockwell, providing validity to the claims.
This incident was not an isolated one. The Cannabis Club and the broader cannabis degree programs had been enduring a prolonged period of institutional neglect and bias, dating back multiple years. In multiple examples, events proposed by the club were unfairly dismissed or denied without justifiable reasons, a treatment starkly different from that of other student organizations. For instance, the club was denied a bake sale, a meat raffle, and a chili competition, while another university-affiliated club was able to host a raffle for six firearms.
The issues extended beyond event approvals. The university’s marketing efforts for the cannabis degree programs were woefully inadequate, despite the club’s repeated offers to assist, including students taking the initiative to create their marketing videos on social media sites to help bring awareness to the cannabis degree programs at LSSU. This lack of support indicated a systemic disregard for the program, further marginalizing the students involved in these areas of study.
In a bold move, the club members, backed by faculty guidance, meticulously documented their cases of discrimination and drafted votes of no confidence against key university figures. The detailed resolutions, covering a total of 17 pages, outlined the extent and severity of the issues faced by the club and cannabis degree programs.
This documentation was not just a list of grievances; it was a powerful statement against the unfair treatment they had endured over the past few years. These documents were drafted and then approved unanimously by the Cannabis Club Executive Board members.
In a symbolic message, members of the Cannabis Club, who are also members of the Student Government, drafted resolutions of student support to further emphasize the importance of these issues in a show of solidarity with the Cannabis Club. These resolutions were presented on November 9th during the Student Government meeting. These individuals showcased remarkable bravery by standing up to the administration, whom they worked closely with.
The resolution against Interim President Gillette, introduced by Representative Alex Eckman and co-sponsored by VP Isaac Fitzpatrick, highlighted Gillette’s pattern of neglect and discrimination against the cannabis studies club and students/faculty within the program. Representative Gavin Trom introduced the resolution against Interim Provost Kimberly Muller, with Representative Keidran Rice co-sponsoring. This resolution echoed similar concerns of neglect and discrimination by Muller.
The resolution against the Board of Trustees was introduced by VP Jackson Rund and co-sponsored by Representative Aidan Lesnock, which detailed the Board’s failure to uphold values of inclusivity and diversity, particularly with the cannabis-related programs
The resolutions, which the Student Government unanimously passed, were a powerful statement of student unity and the determination to challenge institutional bias and negligence. These actions were not just a protest against unfair treatment; they were a call for a fundamental change in the university’s attitude towards emerging fields of study like cannabis education.
Word quickly spread around campus, following the announcement of the resolutions passing. A petition was started for student body members to sign, which condemned the administration’s actions and called for support of the resolutions that were passed by the Cannabis Club. This petition reached 248 signatures, which is over 15% of the student body.
Other student governing bodies on campus, such as the Inter-Greek Council and Presidents Council also drafted letters of support for the club’s vote of no-confidence documents, showing the unity between students at this institution in the face of adversity.
In a surprising turn of events, the faculty at LSSU uniquely backed their students. An email address, email@example.com, was created by a faculty member to support the students anonymously. An email was sent to a few students who shared insights into the challenges faced by both students and faculty under the current administration.
Meeting minutes and statements from the Faculty Association were sent from this anonymous account, further revealing deeply-rooted concerns about the university’s direction and leadership. The email concluded with the following quote, aimed to further motivate students, “We have your back, we believe in you. Remember at the end of the day, students are the reason that higher ed exists, despite their attempts at intimidation, YOU, THE STUDENTS, HOLD MORE POWER THAN ANYONE HERE!” signed, Laker Strong.
A short time later on November 17th, a Board of Trustees meeting was held and a speech was made by Cannabis Club President, Jackson Rund, summarizing the approved resolutions and votes of no confidence. Another speech was made by Faculty Association President Joseph Moening, condemning the statements made by Gillette and urging the university to implement corrective actions immediately.
Student Government President Mackenzie Stockwell also made a speech demanding a call for action, stating that this issue necessitates genuine and proactive measures toward rectifying systemic biases within the institution, to ensure equal treatment for all students.
The saga culminated in Gillette announcing his decision to remove himself from the presidential search, a development perceived as a victory for the cannabis students and a step towards rectifying the institutional bias they had faced. There is still no update regarding how Interim Provost Kimberley Muller will address the points made within the Vote of no Confidence documents going forward, but based on recent communication with Muller, there is hope that positive changes will be made to better ensure equal treatment to all students, regardless of their major.
The LSSU Cannabis Club’s story is not just about the struggles they faced; it’s about the resilience and empowerment of students fighting for their rights and respect in an academic setting. Their actions, supported by detailed documentation and unwavering courage, have paved the way for a more inclusive and respectful environment, not only at LSSU but also setting an example for academic institutions everywhere.
This story serves as a beacon of hope and a rallying cry for students in similar situations, demonstrating that change is possible when voices unite against injustice. It’s a narrative that goes beyond the cannabis industry, resonating with anyone who believes in the power of standing up against injustice.
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